“Making Mistakes when Crossing Boarders in Fiction”

Enjoy this video interview with author Mitali Perkins as she shares her thoughts on “common mistakes I’ve seen when authors cross borders to tell stories.”  Mitali Perkins has written Bamboo People, Rickshaw Girl, Secret Keeper, Monsoon Summer, and Sunita Sen. 

Also take a moment to explore the rich and dynamic blog she has created, called Mitali’s Fire Escape in which she seeks to create a “safe space to talk about books between cultures.”


“Hanukkah Lights of 2011: Dates, Customs, and History Explained”

Read and enjoy here!

And as always, we would love to hear about how you celebrate Hanukkah!


Avoiding the Holidary ‘Balance Traps’

Avoiding the Holidary ‘Balance Traps’

7th and 8th graders on Hunt Middle School’s Solstice Team are learning about culture through Afro-Peruvian rhythms.

7th and 8th graders on Hunt Middle School’s Solstice Team are learning about culture through Afro-Peruvian rhythms.

by Dov Stucker
teacher at Hunt Middle School

How does this music weave into the curriculum? Students in my classes have been studying the Agricultural Revolution and the development of human societies.To understand this historical shift, students need to comprehend the concept of “culture.”

     Since culture is something that we all have–but that we rarely notice unless we’re in a cross-cultural setting–I bring cross-cultural encounters into my classroom. One day in early November began with students free-writing about a time when they experienced another culture. As the writers shared their pieces, a mosaic of diverse experiences filled the room: stories about dinner at neighbor’s house, where there were numerous shrines; the experience of attending a friend’s Bar Mitzvah; a disorienting trip to a Montreal’s Chinatown; riding a CCTA bus filled with multiple languages. Luckily, each one of these Burlington students had a cross-cultural experience to draw from.

     I then introduced a framework for understanding culture that my classes would be using for the coming weeks: The Universal Elements of Culture. After a brief overview of these universal elements, we watched a music video from the Afro-Peruvian band, Novalima.

Students weren’t told anything about the culture where the video was shot. They had to use their framework to identify the elements of culture seen in the video. Students were particularly taken with the unique street game shown in the video,  as well as the enigmatic shrine. As students continue to learn about the historical rise of the first organized societies, they will have a better grasp of what this thing is that we call “culture.”

“Writing Like a White Guy”

In this article poet Jaswinder Bolina eloquently shares his story of exploring the terrain and tensions of language, race, and poetry.

Bolina begins: “My father says I should use a pseudonym. ‘They won’t publish you if they see your name. They’ll know you’re not one of them. They’ll know you’re one of us.’ This has never occurred to me, at least not in a serious way. ‘No publisher in America’s going to reject my poems because I have a foreign name,’ I reply. ‘Not in 2002.’ I argue, ‘These are educated people. My name won’t be any impediment.’ Yet in spite of my faith in the egalitarian attitude of editors and the anonymity of book contests, I understand my father’s angle on the issue.”

Bolina’s analysis of the complexities of his being and the way it influences the lenses that he views the world through are insightful and keep the reader engaged. His story and analysis are deep, beginning with a look back to the “especially muted and disdainful brand of racism” his father experienced as a young brown Indian man in London in 1965, moving to the tension of being a first generation United States youth, and on to present day scenarios such as Joe Biden’s comments on how “articulate and bright” President Barak Obama is.  His analysis illuminates an important point:

“The one thing I least believe about race in America is that we can disregard it. I’m nowhere close to alone in this, but the person I encounter far more often than the racist—closeted or proud—is the one who believes race isn’t an active factor in her thinking, isn’t an influence on his interaction with the racial Other.”

Jaswinder’s voice is an important part of the story on race, language, gender, and immigration in the United States.  He leaves us will hopeful words and much to think about as we enter into our daily interactions with people of all racial colors, cultures, and backgrounds:

“Though ‘high’ English might be born of a culture once dominated by straight white men of privilege, each of us wields our English in ways those men might not have imagined. This is okay. Language, like a hammer, belongs to whoever picks it up to build or demolish. Whether we take language in hand to deconstruct itself, to confess a real experience or an imagined one, or to meditate upon the relationship between the individual and the political, social, historical, or cosmological, ownership of our language need not be bound up with the history of that language. Whether I choose to pound on the crooked nail of race or gender, self or Other, whether I decide on some obscure subject while forgoing the other obvious one, when I write, the hammer belongs to me.”

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

Just found this project called BookDragon from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific Program.  BookDragon is maintained by Terry Hong.  He writes:

“BookDragon is a book review blog produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program (APAP). BookDragon is an education, outreach, and research initiative that features literary works which highlight the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to the American experience and world cultures, two of the grand challenges of the Smithsonian Institution’s Strategic Plan.”

I’ve already found five new titles to add to my “Will Read Someday” book list!


Happy Diwali!

Check out President Obama’s Happy Diwali video.  Don’t know what Diwali is? This video outlines some basic Diwali info. If you celebrate Diwali, what do you love about it?

Enjoy the Festival of Lights!